Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Baddeley, Milton & Norton by-election – another shattering blow to Labour, another small step forward for TUSC        

Other cuts parties also suffered as the Lib Dem’s share of the vote was down by 4% and the Tory vote down by 11%. However, in a further humiliation for Labour, the Tory candidate pushed them into third place! As expected UKIP’s vote increased by 8%.
The result was also a condemnation of Labour’s decision to continue plans, despite massive opposition, to borrow a minimum of £59 million to build a new City Council HQ. Their recent decision to keep the current Civic Centre in Stoke for ‘some’ council workers but still build the new HQ in Hanley as well has only increased that anger.
The by election was triggered because the ex Labour incumbent, Andy Lilley, has been jailed for 16 months for fraud despite Labour trying to sweep it under the carpet – at least while he was still a member of the Labour Party. Of course this didn’t help Labour much either!
If local elections took place now across the city Labour would face a wipe out. This after three years of the Con-Dem’s savage austerity measures. If they had at least tried to fight against the government’s cuts instead of carrying them out then they would have won this and previous by elections. But anyone still waiting for Ed Miliband or any other Labour leader to come charging over the hill on a white horse to push Labour back into a party that represents ordinary working class people might as well ‘urinate’ in the wind. This applies as much in Stoke-on-Trent as it does nationwide.
The City Independents are now the second biggest party with 10 seats on the city council and pose a serious threat to Labour’s domination at the next full local elections in 2015. Although, if those elections coincide with a general election on the same day it will provide Labour with a better chance of hanging on to power.
The City Independents have achieved this position by providing an ‘opposition’ in words to some cuts. But as yet that opposition has not included a clear commitment to oppose all cuts or a serious alternative which could protect jobs and services.
Importance of this by election
As local elections across Stoke-on-Trent won’t take place again until 2015 this by-election was a rare opportunity for various parties and others to stand as candidates. This led to a large field of 10 in the largest ward in the city which made it more difficult for the Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition (TUSC) and other smaller parties to make a significant impact at this stage in terms of the votes received.
There was only a 19% turnout but that takes nothing away from it’s importance. Under Labour’s control the city council has already carried out £77 million worth of cuts over recent years. This has resulted in thousands of council workers jobs going and the closure of swimming pools, care homes, children’s centre’s libraries etc. Now they are planning a further eye watering £100 million worth of cuts over the next fours years which would all but decimate what services remain.
All the other candidates in this by election seem oblivious that this is the key question facing the 250,000 people who live in the city. Most of their leaflets did not even mention cuts whilst a few did so only in passing with no mention of actually fighting against them or any idea how they could be stopped. This inevitably means that the newly elected City Independent councillor will join the others carrying out these hated austerity measures.
TUSC strengthened by this by election
Only TUSC candidate Liat Norris stood on the basis of a fight against cuts. We had a great response from people we spoke to. Two fellas in their forties who had never voted before voted for TUSC. A firefighter who we first met three days ago voted for TUSC. Three women who are active in community based groups voted for TUSC. At a public meeting we organised in the ward two local activists said they would stand as TUSC candidates in 2015.
This by election represents an important step forward for TUSC in Stoke-on-Trent. It represents an important step forward in the building of a new party that we so desperately need to fight for ordinary working class people and it represents one more step towards our aim to stand working class fighters in every ward in the city in 2015.
Liat Norris says,

“I would like to thank all those who voted for TUSC’s fight against cuts. One of the most important parts of this election is that TUSC have now stood in 8 wards in the city on a clear platform of fighting against all cuts; we are and we will continue to build our profile as the only alternative to the pro-cuts parties.

For a new developing party fighting against the mainstream consensus that there is no alternative but to carry out these brutal cuts, this important groundwork of building a base of support across the city is key, as is giving people the option to vote against these cuts that would have been otherwise lacking.

This is not the last people in Milton, Norton or Baddeley Green will see of us, or indeed the last anyone else in the city will see of us. We will continue to fight against the council’s plan to carry out another £100 million of cuts, and will be looking to stand in every single ward in the city in 2015.”

By Election result:

City Independent – Mundy -861 – 32%
Tory – Richardson -504 – 18%
Labour – Chetwynd – 444 – 16.5%
UKIP – Harold -333 – 12.4%
Independent – Gary Elsby -313 – 11.7%
BNP – White -79 – 2.9%
Green Party Colclough -50 – 1.8%
Lib – Dem Grocock -32 – 1.1%
Independent – Davis -27 – 1%
TUSC Norris -25 – 0.9%
  • Total votes: 2674 = 19.18% turnout

  • UPDATE: Since this article was written Stoke North Labour MP Joan Whalley has announced she won't be standing at the next general election and Stoke South Constituency Labour Party Secretary Tony Whalley has resigned.